When DPRK dictator Kim Jong-Il died in December of last year, his 27-year old (we think) son, Kim Jong-Un succeeded to the seat of power. Believed to be a soft and callow youth unfamiliar with the dangerous intrigues of the power elite in North Korea, Kim Jong-Un was described by a Western intelligence analyst this way: “In a pit of snakes, KJU is a gerbil”. His long-term prospects were uncertain, to say the least.
Perhaps, just perhaps, there was significant underestimation of the Dear Boy who is now Dear Leader. It would appear that some thirty senior DPRK officials, including a substantial number in Army leadership, have been “removed”. We are looking at a full-fledged purge. The latest, the Guardian tells us, is the execution of Kim Choi, former Deputy Minister of the Army. His means of execution? Mortar round. No trace to be left. (In all likelihood, if the 82mm pictured in the Guardian article was the ordnance used, there would be plenty of traces. So maybe it was a 120 or 160?) Reason? Carousing during the official mourning period of his father. (So much for lifting a Guinness, “for strength”!)
The West (and South Korea) had hoped that the young dictator would be more inclined to be a reformer who could reach out to the West and attempt to alleviate the miserable privations of DPRK’s populace, and lessen the pariah status of his country in the region and world. Kim Jong-Un’s actions don’t necessarily rule out such an inclination, but they do show that he certainly was a fast learner in the game of power consolidation, and has no trouble employing the traditional tactics of political purge, prison, and execution of military and political rivals on flimsy charges.
My guess is that the snakes are considerably more nervous than they were ten months ago. Young Kim has a semi-hot wife, apparently, and even if the family photo has a slight hint of mortal terror (whose don’t?), he seems to be getting comfortable with the trappings of his office as
Brutal Dictator Dear Leader.